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4 ways to make social media more fun and safe

Social media allows us to talk to people a whole world away. It lets us reconnect with friends, loved ones, and it’s also good for the occasional funny video or breaking news story. However, sometimes social media isn’t the fun, welcoming place it should be.

What is the best way to be safe online?

While there is no surefire way to be safe all the time (bad people online and in real life are always up to something), there are safeguards you and your loved ones can take that will make the experience safer for everyone involved.
Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. If somebody that you already know requests to be your online “friend” that is okay to accept. Also, if you do already know somebody, it’s okay to send them a friend request. However, only send ONE friend request. If you don’t hear back then assume whoever you sent the friend request to either hasn’t seen it or isn’t interested in accepting. Young kids and adolescents should not “friend” people they don’t already know in person. Younger people should review all friend requests with their parents before accepting them. Fake accounts from bad people are a risk of using social media, so parental participation for young people online is essential. Another thing to consider is if a child receives a friend request from someone that has not been nice to them in the past. This could be a good opportunity to discuss how it might not be a good idea to accept this request, and that it is important to accept your friends online carefully. There’s no need to add negativity to your feed, after all.
In a nutshell, don’t overshare information. Overwhelming people with several posts on one day isn’t always received well, and what’s more, it can be unsafe to post so many details of your personal life online. One to three posts a day, about different subjects, is considered acceptable social media manners. Constant posting often turns people off and can also get you in trouble with the platform you are posting on. As for the content of your posts, refrain from posting things you wouldn’t want your family to see. Stay away from politics and other hot button issues that might start arguments. Again, wading into these waters can potentially get you “de-platformed” from whatever social media app you happen to be using, even if you’re saying something you don’t think is going to bother someone. It is important to remember that things posted online are a permanent record that someone can save or screenshot even if you take it down afterwards.
Social Media isn’t always a positive place for the thin skinned. As we previously stated, people are often different online then they are in person. If somebody makes a nasty comment about something you posted, rather than engage them in a public forum, depending on your relationship, contact them privately. Only do this if this is a person you know well in the real world. If you don’t know them, it might be a good idea to unfriend, and in some instances block them. If this person continues being rude, you might need to contact the Site Administrator. Also, don’t send a lot of personal messages to people. It’s okay to do this every so often, but users aren’t generally on social media to have the same sorts of conversations they can have via email or text. Lastly, personal messages often function the way your email inbox does. You get SPAM messages in both places. Don’t open anything from somebody you don’t know. If you suddenly get a message from somebody you do know that is telling you to “click a link” that is out of the ordinary or looks suspicious, contact the person offline to see if they sent it.
The great playwright William Shakespeare said it in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Basically, try and keep your social media posts as brief as you can. If you have something really important to say and want to write a lot (several paragraphs), perhaps posting it on social media is not the best forum. This is a post that might better be sent in an email, a personal message, or on a blog. In fact, what you have to say might even be better done via a video-chat, phone call, or an in-person conversation (remember those?). If what you have to say is too long for that, then it is definitely something that you SHOULD NOT post on social media. People have a misconception that who they are online is different than who they are in real life. This misguided idea often leads to them getting in trouble by oversharing or taking positions they don’t necessarily believe.

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